Advanced Television

Apple TV, hard core at last?

March 26, 2019

Apple finally puts some flesh on the bones, or fruit on the vine, of Apple TV. But is it really hard core about its TV proposition?

Tuning in live to its launch, it was frustrating for us media watchers that we had to wait through the new News proposition, Games proposition and Pay proposition as Apple tries to shapeshift before our eyes and track away from its slowing device market and toward becoming a services leviathan. In truth, the Wallet and Pay innovations – including an old-world credit card – may well turn out to be the most significant launch of the day.

There was a lot of whooping for everything. Tiresome, given that the vast majority of the audience were Apple people who mainly knew what was coming, and they looked more than old enough to be able to control themselves, despite their uniform ‘mutton dressed as teenage lamb’ fashion sense. Sorry, must cut out the meat-based references, it is Apple after all, and I’m sure they would prefer more of a vegetarian image.

Not that Apple doesn’t know when to get its claws out. It often repeated that it would always guard its users privacy; it didn’t need to rub in the contrast with others. It also announced that advertisers in its services would not be able to follow users around the Internet. Fair play, both good selling points.

But – as those who remember its publisher proposition for iTunes know – Apple also knows how to gouge. Magazine publishers are doubtless handing over a large percentage of the $9 / month subscription to be part of News + (though I expect Jeff Bezos did a better deal for the WSJ), but then what choice do they have?

Anyway, finally we got to Apple TV+. It is an app across devices allowing trick plays and AI driven recommendation across the channels it has signed to the app – these include HBO, Hulu, Prime and some cable sub packages that users can now access across iOs devices. So far so OK, but kinda like a lot of OTT aggregator propositions.

And then there’s the new Apple TV+, the real new launch – whoop, whoop, whoop. A cavalcade of stars – Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah Winfrey – all unveiled new mega shows that all sounded just fine. There were 30-something brand new content offerings in all and they all looked OK, and they all looked very expensive. They will not all be hits. And Apple seems to have no plans to license content, it’s going to build all its own. It has mentioned a $1 billion+ content budget, Netflix has earmarked $15 billion this year. Apple had toyed half-heartedly with TV for years, is it different this time?

Apple TV+ will be on smart TVs, Roku and Amazon and will eventually be in 100 countries. But there was no news on prices – and that’s a pretty big information gap. No whoop. It is going to have to compete with Netflix, so surely not much over $15? Its only original and exclusive content will be its own; will that be enough? And that’s before Disney D2C comes along. Disney is now the world’s biggest content company and has decades of experience. Netflix grew out of content distribution expertise. Amazon has other agendas and treats Prime as a loss leader – is Apple playing the same game, will Apple TV+ be a line in the ecosystem loyalty marketing budget? Or is it a technology company that can crack the often-tried, often-failed, shift to content success? That will be whoop worthy.


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